Contaminated sports supplements: lessons on product comparison and route of ingestion from the Joanna Blair case

Published 21 September 2018 By: Max Shephard

Doping supplements

While the WADA Anti-Doping Code (Code) 2009 was limited in its description of contaminated products (and in fact used the word ‘contaminated’ only once1), the 2015 WADC provides far more detail on the matter. This includes circumstances in which ‘contaminated products’ arguments can be run (i.e. even in appeals from provisional suspension), and a wide range of sanction (as identified at paragraph 39 of UKAD v Warburton & Williams2)3. The 2015 Code also defined the term ‘contaminated product’, namely: ‘a product that contains a Prohibited Substance that is not disclosed on the product label or in information available in a reasonable Internet search.’

In recent years, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has heard a number of cases on contaminated products including in relation to the footballer Ademi4, the judoka Gharbi5 and canoeist Tarnovschi6. Earlier this year, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) case of MMA fighter Josh Barnett was also published7.

Given their regular appearances as mitigation in doping cases, this article examines the decisions in the recent case of Great Britain javelin thrower, Joanna Blair,8 which shed some light on the correct approach when arguing contaminated products. Specifically, it looks at:

  • Facts of the case
  • Legal issues (first instance)
    • Route of ingestion
    • Method of contamination
    • Findings
  • Appeal
    • Burden of proof
    • Weight of evidence
  • Analysis
    • De novo application
    • Contaminated product comparison
    • Route of ingestion
  • Conclusions


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Max Shephard

Max Shephard

Max Shephard is a barrister specialising in sports law at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, London. He regularly advises on anti-doping and disciplinary proceedings before sports governing bodies and anti-doping panels.

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